MPOA Files ‘Civil Rights Lawsuit’ Against Montclair; TOOM Calls Suit ‘Bully Tactic’

MONTCLAIR, N.J.– The Montclair Property Owners Association [MPOA] filed a civil rights lawsuit in the Superior Court of New Jersey Tuesday challenging the constitutionality Montclair’s rent freeze that has been in effect since the spring of 2020. 

The lawsuit seeks a permanent injunction against further extensions and enforcement of the freeze, that such actions by the council were improper exercises of the council’s police powers and authority, that the freeze is unconstitutional due to impermissible takings without just compensation, while also seeking damages and attorneys’ fees under New Jersey’s Civil Rights Act.

“By adopting the rent freeze, Montclair’s elected officials knew that their actions would penalize property owners.  Because the Appellate Division confirmed the MPOA’s right to petition and referendum, the town enacted extensions of the rent freeze to punish the petitioners for exercising their constitutional rights,” the suit reads.

Montclair has lost four separate legal actions related to the MPOA’s referendum, including a ruling in New Jersey’s Appellate Division.  While Montclair’s legal bills are unknown, as a result of the Civil Rights Violations, MPOA says it is entitled to a reimbursement of its legal fees that will exceed $250,000 – not counting a similar motion that will be made on the rent freeze litigation.

“So why have landlords filed suit against the rent freeze moratorium? They have done so because it is part of their strategy to threaten the township with legal fees and lawsuits in order to get the Mayor and Council to bend to their wishes,” says Mitch Kahn, vice-president and director of Organizing New Jersey Tenants Organization. “The landlords want the Council to rescind the rent control ordinance passed in April 2020 or replace it with one which has very weak enforcement mechanisms.”

Kahn, acting as a spokesperson for the Tenant Organization of Montclair (TOOM), has lead the negotiations with the MPOA on behalf of TOOM, the NAACP, the Montclair Housing Commission, and the Montclair Tenant Advisory Council.
ent control ordinance passed in April 2020 or replace it with one which has very weak enforcement mechanisms. 

Kahn calls the suit “another bullying tactic to intimidate the Mayor and Council” and adds that the landlords are doing just fine.

“Their mortgage payments have remained fixed, their property taxes have increased no more than that of homeowners’, and rental properties in Montclair are selling far in excess of their assessed value. Furthermore, they have shamelessly ignored the rent freeze whenever it suits them. They have, in violation of the rent freeze ordinance, raised rents by 20% on vacant apartments, and many tenants have received unconscionable rent increase notices during this period,” he adds.

Kahn says that the landlords, in recent negotiations with the Tenants Organization of Montclair (TOOM), the NAACP, the Montclair Housing Commission, and the Montclair Tenant Advisory Committee, have refused to accept a proposed rent ordinance that is substantially different and more generous for them. If the Montclair Property Owners Association is unwilling to accept a mutually agreeable ordinance we are perfectly willing to go to referendum on the original one.

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